Helena Gijsbers van Wijk
What clay body do you use?


I use all different kinds, depending on the work I plan to make. Some are store-bought but frequently I work with remixed clay from my studio. It’s a stoneware body that is suitable both for throwing and hand-building".


 

Primary forming method?

"I use equally hand-building and throwing. My original motivation to learn to throw on the wheel was to be able to create wheel-thrown parts that could be further altered and used as parts of larger sculptures. When it comes to hand-building, all different methods get used depending on what the particular task calls for".


Primary firing temperature?

"I use different temperatures. In the past I have done a lot of Raku and saggar firings. I also love high fire reduction firing and salt, but lately I don’t use them quite as often. With all the new glazes that are on the market, oxidation became much more appealing than it used to be".


Favorite surface treatment?

"I can’t really pinpoint any specific treatment; I use a lot of different things but I do like metallic and crater glazes".



Favorite Tools?

"Any tool that will do the job. When hand-building, cardboard beer coasters are indispensable.".    



Describe your studio environment.

"Well, that would be hard. I guess people have to come to visit and see for themselves. To a random visitor it might look messy, but there is a system and order to it. My studio is in an old, a little rundown warehouse. The whole building is very dusty and nothing stays clean for more than five minutes. But it’s a great place to work in without having to worry about making a mess. And it’s affordable, which in Houston is not easy to find any more".




How/Where do you market & sell your artwork?

"I’ve tried all different venues over the years. I have my work in a couple of galleries in Houston, and I do a few markets every year. Conditions keep changing all the time so it’s important to stay on to top of things and try some innovative approaches. Internet became indispensable in recent years. I also have a web site, an Etsy store, and try to promote my work on social media".


What sparks your creativity? What drives you to work with clay?
"When I was younger I had sometimes hard time coming up with new ideas but now it’s pretty effortless. The more I work, the easier the ideas come to me. One evolves into another. These days the problem is not the lack of ideas but not having enough time to realize them all ".


Did you come to pottery from a different career? Tell us about your journey to a ceramics career.
    "Before I left Europe, I worked as a film editor in a documentary studio for several years. But I had always thought of myself as a painter because that was what I wanted to be. (Back then I knew nothing about pottery and I hadn’t even seen a kiln until much later.) When I came to Houston, I realized that I probably wouldn’t be able to find a job in film industry here, so I focused on painting. I signed up for several art classes at a local community college, and that’s when I discovered ceramics".




    How have you have taken your experience as a well-established maker in the field and passed that knowledge along to other artists?
      "I don’t consider myself an established maker. I think I still have a long way to go. But I do have some experience that I have gained over the years, and I enjoy passing it on to my students. I am glad if I can make someone else’s life easier so they don’t have to struggle as I sometimes had to".



      What’s the best advice you’ve been given by a fellow maker, mentor, or teacher?

        "Many years ago I took a workshop with Annabeth Rosen and she said that an artist should go to the studio every day, no matter how he/she feels. There is always something to do, and beside it’s good to look at things from a different perspective. This sentence had stuck with me and I’ve been trying to follow it ever since".

        "Another advice that I believe is from Jasper Johns, goes something like this (loose paraphrase): Make something, do something to it, then do something more to it. I have thought of this sentence a lot over the years. There is something to it".



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          Bio:

          Helena Gijsbers van Wijk was born and grew up in Liberec, Czech Republic. Since her early childhood she studied music and visual arts.  She graduated from the Music Conservatory in Prague, and received her MFA from the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, Czech Republic. Shortly after that Helena relocated to the United States. After her arrival she continued her education in visual arts. She attended college art classes, sculpture classes at the Houston Art League, variety of ceramic workshops, and live drawing and sculpture classes with well-known Chinese-born, Houston-based sculptor Willy Wang.

          Helena has been maintaining a studio at the Houston Foundry in the Warehouse District in Houston for almost fifteen years. For the past decade she has been dividing her artistic practice between painting and ceramics. Helena mainly focuses on ceramic sculpture. She is very active in Houston arts community and participates frequently in local and national shows. Her work has been featured in a number of galleries in Houston area and elsewhere. Helena teaches private ceramics classes at her studio.


          Contact ClayHouston at info@ClayHouston.org

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